Free Press sports writers Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez preview the Detroit Lions’ game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Carlos Monarrez and Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press

Maybe there’s something in the water in Phoenix.

How else can anyone explain the wealth of NFL pass-rushing talent that has come from the area recently?

Detroit Lions linebacker Devon Kennard is among the notable NFL rushers to hail from the Phoenix area. Joining him are Cam Jordan of the New Orleans Saints, Trent Murphy of the Buffalo Bills and Dion Jordan of the Seattle Seahawks.

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Those four players have combined for 20.5 sacks this season and a combined career total of 111.5 sacks.

“I don’t know,” Kennard said Friday of the reason behind the Phoenix area’s abundance of pass-rushing talent. “We’ve got a good crew of guys that all came out around the same time and are all in the league.

“I think it’s a testament. Nobody ever thinks about Arizona when it comes to talent. But we actually have a good amount of guys who’ve made it, especially around the years I came out.”

Cam Jordan has been an established star since the Saints drafted him in the first round out of California in 2011. The three-time Pro Bowler leads the group with 10 sacks this season.

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Kennard said the players have always kept track of each other growing up, either through occasional encounters over the years or through families that have known each other for long time. Kennard’s father, Derek, and Cam Jordan’s father, Steve, have known each since their NFL-playing days in the 1980s and ’90s.

“So we all know each other,” Kennard said. “The top guys from the state, everybody’s kind of familiar with each other.”

Kennard has been the group’s breakout star this year. His career-high six sacks lead the Lions and his effectiveness provided the answer to many questions about the team’s questionable pass rush entering the season.

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Now Kennard gets to return to the Phoenix area and display his talents in his hometown for the second time. Last year, it wasn’t a happy homecoming for Kennard, who didn’t register a single tackle in the New York Giants’ 23-0 loss.

Kennard expects about 15 to 20 family and friends to show up to watch him Sunday.

“It’s definitely cool,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of family that’ll be able to come to the game, a lot of family, a lot of friends. So that’s always nice.”

The only hometown connection Kennard won’t be able to make is with his old, dear friend: the 2005 Kia Sorento that lives at his parents’ home. He still drives when he goes home after the season.

“It’s still there,” Kennard said with a laugh about the SUV that holds a Kelly Blue Book value of about $7,000. “I probably won’t see it, though. It’s a business trip. I’ll wait till the offseason.”

Contact Carlos Monarrez at or follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.